Transcript for 'Is Peace Possible?' Chapter 2: Security

The text for the second installment in our four-part series on the key barriers to peace in the Middle East

Security is the foundation of any successful effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Any peace agreement would likely collapse in the event of a terrorist attack or military invasion that the agreement was widely seen as having enabled. And only when the question of security is satisfactorily addressed will leaders have the political capital required to resolve the remaining core issues of the conflict.

9-11 Ten Years LaterThough security is often framed as a distinctly Israeli concern, a future state of Palestine would be affected by many of the same threats, and would have a shared interest in finding ways to counter them. Security is particularly important in an unpredictable region, with many hostile forces that will likely work to bolster extremists and undermine any peace agreement. Neither party can afford to be naive about the threats they face.

What are the threats that must be addressed? Historically one of the largest threats has been conventional military attacks -- meaning tanks, infantry, ground troops. Today, that threat has largely been replaced by aerial attacks, namely the launching of rockets, short-range missiles, and potential attacks by aircraft. Technological advancements have also put Israel and the Palestinian territories within striking distances of medium- and long-range ballistic missiles launched from any country in the region. Terrorism remains a serious threat, though suicide bombings have largely been contained in recent years. Israel has been under near-constant bombardment by rockets from Gaza and Southern Lebanon. Smuggling, of both weapons and foreign terrorists, is also a serious security concern, as illustrated by the rampant trafficking through Egypt's porous border with Gaza.

The threats faced by Israel are real and they are serious. So from an Israeli perspective, any peace agreement must not inhibit Israel's ability to protect itself against them--and ideally should strengthen Israel's capabilities.

While Palestinians have an interest in deterring the same threats, their primary concern is that these security measures must not prevent the emergence of a sovereign, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state. So the core security question is whether both Israeli and Palestinian security needs can be met in a way that still allows for the establishment of a sovereign and viable Palestinian state.

From Israel's founding in 1948 until the 1967 war, Israel's security strategy was driven by a doctrine of preemption. Because Israel was so small and narrow, and because Israel's population centers were so close to its borders with enemy countries, Israel was forced to take the war to its enemies' territory by way of preemptive attacks. This approach protected Israel for its first two decades. Israel's victory in the 1967 war gave it control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and other territories, providing Israel with a territorial buffer against attacks on its eastern, southern, and northern fronts and giving rise to a new strategy of "territorial strategic depth." The strategy was devised at a time when the primary threat against Israel came from a conventional military attack, particularly from tanks and ground troops belonging to multiple Arab countries along its eastern border.

The concept of territorial strategic depth is used to justify Israel's military presence in a large swathe of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, in order to repel ground troops coming from the East and to regulate smuggling from Jordan; an enlarged territorial envelope around its capital, Jerusalem, since it lies right along the 1967 Lines and would be immediately susceptible to attack; a territorial buffer along the 1967 Lines to protect important Israeli infrastructure and population centers; the high-ground of the Judean Mountain Ridge, which overlooks the major Israeli population and commercial centers as well as Ben Gurion Airport; a corridor along the West Bank to mobilize troops to the Jordan River; and the road network in the West Bank, in order to move forces swiftly throughout the territory.

There is a legitimate debate as to whether the territorial approach to security is effective. It is largely geared toward ground attacks, and provides little defense against contemporary military threats. It also utilizes a counter-terrorism approach rather than counter-insurgency -- allowing Israel to engage directly with security threats on the ground at the expense of incurring increased tension and hostility that fuel terrorism.

What is not up for debate is that controlling vast amounts of territory in the West Bank does not allow for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.

In other words, the territorial approach to security is largely inconsistent with the two-state solution.

There are many reasons why the two-state solution is crucial to Israel's interests. But in this chapter we will focus on the very real security-related reasons. But what is the security cost of NOT creating a viable, sovereign Palestinian state?

Though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is certainly not the primary source of instability in the Middle East, the persistence of the conflict emboldens many of the extremists across the region. It also undermines Palestinian moderates who preach the value of coexistence with Israel. The continuing conflict inhibits countries in the region from cooperating with Israel even on mutual security concerns, such as Iranian nuclearization. It also makes Israel the target of international campaigns to delegitimize the Jewish state, which have serious repercussions for Israel's ability to defend itself, as seen by the UN's Goldstone Report, which condemned Israel's counter-terrorism efforts. Lastly, it strains Israel's vital security cooperation with its allies, particularly in Europe.

Zvika Krieger is a former editor and writer at The New Republic and a former correspondent for Newsweek based in Egypt and Lebanon, covering most of the Arab world. More

Krieger has received fellowships to study topics including the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the Kifaya reform movement in Egypt, public health in Bombay slums, religious identity in Kashmir, historical memory in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, and the role of religion in Lebanese politics. He has also reported from such places as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Libya, North Ireland, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Korea. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Slate, New York, Arab Reform Bulletin, New Stateman, Chronicle of Higher Education, Daily Star (Lebanon), Cairo Magazine, Jerusalem Post, Christian Science Monitor, and various other publications, and he has appeared as a Middle East analyst on NBC News, CNN, Fox News, and Air America. His writings have earned him awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. He is a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. He has a bachelor's degree in Middle East Studies from Yale University and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo.

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